Interested in a Basenji?

Once you have decided that a Basenji is the right breed for you, you must now decide exactly what you want. Do you have the time, dedication, and finances to raise a puppy or would an adult dog be more appropriate for your lifestyle? Most people feel that they must start out with a puppy in order to have a good companion but this is simply not the case. The Basenji is a very adaptable breed and most adults accept the change of households quite easily. Many adults may already be house-trained and crate-trained and, for the working owner, this is certainly an advantage over getting a young puppy and spending months training it. A working owner must arrange to come home mid-day or hire a pet sitter to come in and take the pup out to relieve itself as the puppy cannot “hold it” for more than a few hours and leaving it alone in a crate for extended periods can certainly be considered cruel. Crate-training is a *must* with this breed as they can be very destructive. Confining the animal to a crate when you can’t watch it not only protects your home but also protects the Basenji from getting injured. This is especially important when you have a puppy as they can get into mischief faster than you could believe! 

So you’ve thought this through carefully and have decided that an adult Basenji is best suited for your lifestyle. Where can you find one? There are two main ways to adopt an adult Basenji. The first way is by adopting a “rescue”. A rescue is a Basenji that has lost its home for whatever reason and now needs another home. Many rescues are available due to reasons beyond their control such as owner moving overseas or owner passed away or the dog may have lost its home due to health, behavior, or temperament problems. While most rescues are perfectly nice dogs that with a little love, understanding, and training will make a fabulous addition to your family, there are others who need a lot of work before they will come around and, of course, there are some that will never be trustworthy and loving. Contrary to popular belief, most rescues are not “abused” animals and most of the temperament problems that may be encountered are caused by poor breeding practices or being poorly raised by uneducated or uncaring owners.

Another way to adopt an adult is to adopt a “Golden Opportunity” dog from a breeder. A Golden Opportunity (G.O.) dog is a dog that may be a “retired” champion that is no longer being shown or bred or it may be an older puppy/young adult that the breeder kept to show but didn’t fulfill its early promise or it may be a dog that was returned to the breeder. These are dogs with a known health and temperament background that have been raised in (usually) good conditions. These dogs are usually crate-trained, house-trained, and well-socialized. So why would a breeder give up such a wonderful dog? Breeders can’t keep every dog they breed or their houses would quickly be filled. It is far kinder to place the dogs that are no longer needed for breeding programs into loving homes where they will be someone’s cherished pet. 

These dogs adapt quite quickly to new homes and they truly are Golden Opportunities for those who adopt them. (A word of caution, dogs that have been raised in kennels and haven’t been socialized may be difficult to deal with.) G.O. dogs are spayed/neutered prior to adoption and adoption fees may vary tremendously but they are usually in the same range as a puppy. A puppy. That’s what you have your heart set on so where do you find one? The best place is from a responsible breeder but how do you know who is responsible and who isn’t? Most of the following information will come out during your conversation with the breeder, if not, ask them these questions. 

1.) How many breeds of dogs do they raise? Responsible breeders limit themselves to one or, perhaps, two breeds. It is extremely difficult to learn the pedigrees and health issues of more than one or two breeds. Be wary of anyone with multiple breeds of dogs. 

2.) How many litters per year? Responsible breeders understand the commitment of proper care and socialization of puppies. They also understand the necessity for properly screening homes of potential adopters. With this in mind, and the fact that the majority of Basenjis whelp in the winter, a responsible breeder will limit themselves to one or two litters per year. Many experienced, long-time breeders may be able to handle up to 3 litters but more than that should raise the yellow caution flag. (How can a breeder possibly properly care for and socialize that many puppies?) 

3.) Does the breeder show their dogs? While this is certainly not a requirement, it does show that the breeder cares about the quality of the animals he/she produces. A responsible breeder breeds only the best quality animals possible and knows that the best way to determine quality is by showing them. If you are looking for a dog to show, you should go to a breeder who is currently showing their dogs. Avoid breeders who claim that their animals are “show-quality” yet they have never shown any of their dogs. 

4.) Does the breeder compete in other organized dog-related activities such as lure coursing, obedience, or agility? Again, this is not a requirement for being considered responsible but it shows that the breeder truly enjoys doing things with their dogs. If you are looking for a dog to compete in any of these categories, it would be wise to find a breeder who also enjoys that activity. 

5.) Is the breeder a member of any dog clubs? Responsible breeders like to keep “up to date” about breed related or canine related topics and generally like to socialize with people of similar interests. Being an “active” member of a club is far more important than being a member “on paper”. 

6.) What medical testing does the breeder do with his/her dogs? A responsible Basenji breeder will have their dogs’ eyes tested by a veterinary ophthalmologist and the results registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). Even though there is a low incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed, many breeders may have hip x-rays done and the results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or Penn Hip. They may also use glucose strips to check for Fanconi Syndrome or have a DNA test for Hemolytic Anemia. A good breeder will be willing to show you the results. Avoid breeders who claim that their dogs have no health problems. There is no such thing as a 100% completely healthy bloodline. Responsible breeders understand this and make an honest effort to breed intelligently to produce the healthiest animals possible. 

7.) Does the breeder offer a written contract/warranty? Most responsible breeders do. Protect yourself. Get it in writing. 

8.) Will the breeder allow you to visit them and meet their dogs (provided that you live close enough)? A responsible breeder welcomes visitors into their home. Keep in mind that most breeders work full time, have families to raise, and attend dog-related activities on weekends so setting up an appointment to visit may be a bit difficult. If you do set up an appointment, please be on time and if you aren’t able to make it, contact the breeder and reschedule. Avoid anyone who refuses to allow you to visit or who wants to meet you in a parking lot or on the side of the road. 

9.) If you live too far away to visit the breeder, will he/she send you photos, pedigrees, and copies of health information? Possibly videos of the puppies and where they are raised? A responsible breeder should be willing to send you what you request, though maybe not the video as not everyone owns a camcorder. 
Information packets can be a major expense for a breeder so if you change your mind about obtaining a puppy, please be kind enough to return them to the breeder. 

10.) Will the breeder provide you with names and phone numbers of previous puppy buyers? The AKC requires that breeders keep records of every puppy a person sells so if the breeder is unable to supply you with this info, go elsewhere. 

11.) Why did the breeder choose to breed those two dogs together? Listen to the breeder’s answer. Does it sound as if they are trying to improve the breed? Avoid breeders who answer “To make money”, “To let the kids to see puppies being born”, or “Because we wanted a puppy just like Cleopatra”. Millions of dogs are destroyed each year due to lack of   homes. Every breeding should be made with the intent to improve the breed. 

12.) Does the breeder ask you questions? A responsible breeder will want to know all about you, your family, and what your plans are for one of their puppies. It is normal for a good phone conversation to last 1-2 hours. Many breeders require several phone conversations and visits prior to letting you have a puppy. 

OK. So now you know how to screen breeders but you still aren’t sure how to locate one. The best way is visit the Basenji Club of America’s breeder referral site. The Copper State Basenji Club also has our own local breeder liaison, Theresa Tuttle, who can help. Be aware that there may not be any breeders in your area or that you may not find a breeder in your area that you feel comfortable with. In that case, you may have to locate one in another state. The most important thing is that you locate a breeder with whom you feel comfortable with, even if you have to wait a while to get your puppy. 

What about newspaper ads? Well ok, you may find a responsible breeder but your chances are pretty slim. Very few responsible breeders place ads in the newspaper. If you choose to call an ad, use the 12 questions to help you determine whether or not you have found a responsible breeder. You can also use the above 12 questions and information to help you locate a Golden Opportunity dog. Of course, you may have to modify them somewhat. 

Finding a rescue is a little different. You may be lucky enough to find a breeder who takes in rescues. This is the best scenario as a breeder would know more about the breed than an all-breed rescue group would and they would be better able to offer breed-related advice to you when you adopt. Of course, no matter where you adopt your basenji, there are always good breeders who will be happy to help you with your questions so where you obtain the dog should not be a big issue. A good rescue person will be as strict about adopting out a rescue dog as a responsible breeder is when placing a puppy. Be prepared to answer questions and don’t be afraid to ask them either. Keep in mind that many rescues have no traceable past so you may not get all of the answers to your questions. One thing to remember, responsible breeders do not “rescue” dogs that they have bred. A good breeder takes responsibility for the dogs that they have bred and if they are returned for whatever reason, they are still not rescues.

CSBC Rescue & Rehoming

At any given time throughout the year, CSBC Club members may be in the midst of rehabilitating a rescue basenji. The most common times for rescues are in the late fall and mid-winter. This is usually when the *cute puppy* has worn out its welcome in it’s home and the current owners either don’t want to deal with the basenjis idiosyncrasies, or they just were not cut out for a basenji and did not give it the proper training and it has grown into an unmanageable dog.
Rescue is great for the person that loves a basenji and is more than willing to go the extra mile to work with one of these dogs. On occasion, a rescue can be found to have a fabulous temperament. More commonly, they have been allowed to get away with far too much and tend to be more snarky than a well-bred dog.
If you are interested in a Basenji that is in need of re-homing, but is NOT a rescue dog, please contact our club members, as we tend to have dogs that are retired from the show ring, or just did not turn out to the be the show dog that we’d hoped for… we call these “Golden Opportunity” basenjis! They are ready to become the epi-center of your life and turn their life into royalty!